It’s hard to know which category to file this under — Part 845 of the Liberal Party’s loathing of industry superannuation funds, or the much less-storied Liberal Party loathing of fossil fuel divestment. Let’s park it under both for the time being.

Yesterday morning, in his regular talk with that broadcasting interlocutor of genius Ray Hadley — a discussion that each Monday summons the atmosphere of Plato’s Symposium and the Socratic Dialogues — Treasurer Scott Morrison was opining about his ineffably moronic decision to shut out foreign (well, actually, Chinese) investment from Australia’s power sector when he offered this nugget of wisdom about industry superannuation funds:

“Some industry funds, for example, won’t allow their funds to be invested in coal shares. Now that’s got nothing to do with returns necessarily, that’s got to do with politics, and their view about those particular issues.”

As Crikey readers will know, the Liberal Party despises industry super with a passion and constantly looks for opportunities to do over the sector in favour of retail super funds run by the Liberal Party’s biggest donors, the big banks.

[Attacking industry super an irrational bloodsport for union-haters]

So it comes as no surprise that upon checking, it turns out Morrison was wrong in his attack on industry super. Because if any industry super funds did have some exposure to coal companies — and rest assured some do — they’d be regretting it. Here are the share price performances of some of the biggest coal miners in Australia over the last five years.


Now, in case you’re wondering if all those lines falling to the right simply reflect share market trends more generally, over the last five years, the ASX 200 is up 31.6%, the Dow Jones is up 64% and the FTSE 100 is up 34.6%.

It’s all very reminiscent of the concerted attack — led by prime minister Tony Abbott and including Joe Hockey, Christopher Pyne and Jamie Briggs — on Australian National University for divesting in fossil fuel company Santos in 2014 — a decision Abbott labelled “stupid”. Since then, the Santos share price has fallen 56%. Lucky these blokes aren’t market analysts or financial advisers.

[The ANU’s in good company — whatever Abbott might advise investors]

As for Morrison’s broader contention that industry super funds invest for ideological rather than performance reasons, that’s a curious claim to make given the persistent strong performance of industry super funds over that of retail super funds — an out-performance that seriously sticks in the craw of the Liberal Party. According to the latest performance data from Superratings, industry super outperformed retail super by 2% over the last year and have outperformed them by an average of 2% over the last decade.

If industry super is running around investing based on some half-baked left-Green ideological agenda to do over fossil fuels, the big banks might want to follow suit. Oh… wait.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey